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Nancy Bradley

Fantastic phantoms at the Folsom Hotel

March 13, 2009 | Comment icon 0 comments
Image Credit: Nancy Bradley
Samuel Levitz had little time to think about what happened as he lay dying on the floor of the Folsom Hotel. It was late at night and even though he was just inside the front door where people outside could hear him he did not have time to scream for help anyway. From that spot on the floor he quickly went from this world to the next, and became one of the many ghosts considered to be at the Folsom Hotel in Folsom, California.

Charles Zimmerman was the owner of the hotel in 1885. He was a man of slow to words, but perhaps fast on the trigger. He wanted to be known as in charge and meticulous. Not that Zimmerman is remembered through time as a happy well tempered man in any event, possibly because he made several decisions that turned to disasters in regard to building his hotel. Obviously he had no one to blame but himself when he built the hotel over a gulch which supplied water to the American River a short distance away. An annoying flooding now and then occurred which was hard to over look during the rainy season by his guests, and things did not get better from there. There is reason to believe Mr. C. Zimmerman still hangs around the hotel as well, unfinished business, perhaps he still has things to do.

But today there are other things of concern at the Folsom Hotel.

“It is not strange to enjoy piano music when at the Folsom Hotel” a bystander told us about his recent visit to the Folsom Hotel bar. How lovely. In this case current bouncer Randy Hawthorne needed to clarify that statement for us. “Someone started playing the piano. There is no piano here. It was just eerie!” And then he was to explain another encounter with the strange and bizarre, and that was of a bearded man in spirit crossed the hallway and entered the area where there is now a bathroom. The bouncer stated that he heard a noise like a door slamming, as if the ghost went into the bathroom, but he did not remember anyone else in the building besides himself at that time. When he checked, there was no one in the bathroom. He considered it unnerving.

According to Investigating the Unknown television show investigator Cat Noble, complied of information she obtained from the Folsom History Museum, the silver strike in Nevada during the latter half of the nineteenth century helped to make Folsom a city of hotels. The only transportation between San Francisco and Virginia City, Nevada, was the Sacramento Valley Railroad, which ran through Folsom. The demand for rooms filled Folsom’s lodging places.

Mr. Charles Zimmerman built his FIRST Folsom Hotel (known then as the German Hotel,) in 1875. As before mentioned he erected the building over a gulch. We don’t know his drinking habits and if he made that decision over a bottle at a bar somewhere, but more bad luck occurred when the saturated walls of the hotel did not save the building from burning to the ground ten years later. Undaunted Zimmerman rebuilt on the same soggy site, and renamed his new hotel the New Western Hotel, later re-named the Folsom Hotel. This time he wanted something better than what he had constructed before, (which to us meant he should have built elsewhere) but never mind, he dreamed of having the best hotel in town. The new hotel when reopened was to boast of having many up-scale features for the day, a sitting room, bar, reading room, laundry room, tailor’s room, and a separate washroom for a guests. To make his dream complete, he commissioned the ill fated Samuel Levitz to make a beautiful back-bar mirror in Germany, and when finished he asked Levitz to accompanied the mirror on the two-year voyage around Cape Horn, bringing it to Folsom. Obviously there was no welcome wagon waiting on this trip, as Levitz was cut badly trying to install the mirror in the hotel and quickly and met his end right then and there on the floor of the hotel. The luxurious mirror remains today, and so does Levitz.

The once considered crazy location over the gulch proved to be an opportunity for Guiseppe Murer when he purchased the Folsom Hotel in the early 1920s according to Noble “These were Prohibition days and the gulch under the building is told to have provided a convenient passageway to transport liquor from the river to the hotel’s bar. He renovated the building, and provided a bar upstairs as well as a bar downstairs in the basement, close to the tunnel. When the “gov’ mint revenoors” walked into the building, a bell would ring downstairs and alert the patrons to hide the bootlegged booze in the tunnel.” Of course, where there are men with needs, opportunist women followed, and a rowdy good time was easily found in that regard at the hotel as well. Soon “ladies of the evening” were happily housed upstairs, making it primarily a brothel up until about 1955. A two-way mirror that the madam used to keep an eye on her girls and their patrons now gathers dust as it watches over the staircase. Employees tell us that they often hear the sounds of a phantom child playing on the stairs. Rumor has it that a male child fell to his death falling down those stairs, and that a woman was murdered on the staircase by her “john”. Her screams, they say, can still be heard by the tenants of today.

Of course, rumors can only be substantiated as rumors without facts and proof, so lets fast forward. It is March 1st, and it is cold with rain coming down as hard as it can here in California. The crew of the television show INVESTIGATING THE UNKNOWN with GOLD RUSH GHOSTS PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS has been commissioned to check out the fantastic phantoms at the Folsom Hotel. On this investigation with us will be seasoned investigators Robert Reppert, (owner of GOLD RUSH GHOSTS PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS) in charge of photography, and photographer and investigator Bob King. Other dedicated investigators that willingly came along on this saturating Sunday were Laura Martucci, Judy Cooper, Renee and Layne Miller, Elizabeth Harrison, Danielle Carpenter, and Millieanne Jackson. The investigation was lead by long time GRG investigator Cat Noble. She had done her preliminary investigation well, and employees were willing and waiting to talk to us.

Kalene Varnado, bar manager stated “I felt someone put their finger in my back jean pocket and tug…nobody could have touched me and been able to get out of there without me seeing them. I’ve been told by…residents…the story behind that is that there was a small child who died on the front stairs and he goes around and tugs on people’s back pockets.” We take notes that the upstairs of the hotel is a residential facility now and we shall ask some of the residents. The bar downstairs remains open to the public.

“I was speaking to some tourists here from England…talking about the bar and how it was well-known to be haunted” Tera Varnado, the pretty strawberry blond bartender at the establishment told us. “I said, “They must not like me. They never mess with me. I turned and tapped the gold register. The minute I did, I felt a very firm grasp on my left arm and it was a human hand and the odd thing is, it wasn’t cold and it wasn’t warm. It was a very firm grasp and the minute it was released, it felt like there was electricity on my arm and I screamed. There was no one else behind the bar. The regulars laughed and said, ‘ One of the ghosts just messed with you.’ They always say if you live or work here and you don’t believe in ghosts, you will…really soon.”

Jeff Gisler, a resident of the upstairs at the Folsom Hotel who reminded us of a friendly yet reserved lumberjack quickly added “ I never believed in spirits at all because I never had encounters – until I moved here.” Gisler told Noble he heard knocking on his door several times when he first moved in, and when he went to look, nobody was there. He thought that because he was the ‘new guy’, some of the other residents were ‘messing around with me.’ It was not the case. “I was in a deep sleep and my bed just started shaking” he told us. “That’s what woke me up. It wasn’t an earthquake because nothing else was shaking. It was just my bed that was shaking.”

Desiree Lhoir, bartender was more nervous as she talked to us of her experiences. “Weird noises…” she said. “Juke box coming on by itself. I don’t believe it comes on for no reason. They’re not giving away free songs. I pretty much make it a point to get out of here as soon as I’m done with my paperwork because people are constantly telling me about things they’ve seen or heard and so I’m not sticking around for anything to happen to me…” She then added, “I don’t like being upstairs, though. “It’s creepy up here.”

We shall see.

We started our investigation at the entrance to the kitchen, of course staying away from light sockets, water pipes, anything that could give a false meter reading. Jackson was to pick up a fluctuating on her EMF meter that went from 2.6 to 5.5. This was encouraging. Close by at the juke box meter readings also showed high, but were discounted because of the electrical factor. Again Jackson was drawn to the kitchen area, and called Martucci over. The meters were still fluctuating from 2.1 to 5.5. To clarify we again looked for obvious reasons for the high readings and could only find a microwave and small refrigerator, neither of which was plugged in. No photos of consequence were found to exhibit paranormal activity in the kitchen, although we know that spirits are elusive and move around just as we do, which would account for the change in meter readings in that area. The area was noisy with people at the bar and residents, so we decided to go up the stairs where the child is seen.

“I would like to say something about the mirror on the second floor at the top of the stairs” Martucci was to share. “I believe there is a portal there. I know that at one time it was a two way mirror.” As you approach that area, there is a dizzy feeling. This was felt by several investigators, and I personally on a previous visit had the same feeling. The crew was right on track.
Harrison was the next to give us her observations. “I did not get much of a feeling about the place, perhaps because there was a lot of noise from patrons and residents, but I can see there are several orbs on camera.” Orbs can be attributed to dust, moisture on the lens, any number of anomalies, so they would need further scrutiny before we could analyze. On the 2nd floor Cooper felt uneasy. “It seemed a little unfriendly up there” she stated. As this was the assessment of many on the crew we decided to leave and went to the 3rd floor. It was amazing to see that although there were signs posted all over the place stating NO SMOKING, residents were smoking in the halls and rooms, and the place smelled of cigarette smoke and musty lingering odors. The smell associated with spirits and ghosts is present. Downstairs Renee Miller was to pick up a meter reading of 100.6 on the second floor middle hallway, which immediately dropped to 63.9. Fifteen minutes later she recorded 100.8 at the same spot, which again, immediately, dropped to 63.1. Ah, the chasing of ghosts and spirits!

Onward to the 3rd floor. “I immediately got a picture of an Orb looking down from the 3rd floor.” Cooper recorded. “On the 3rd floor (the air) was really heavy (hard to breath), the air thick, and the whole place felt a little depressing.” As we wondered we knew this could be attributed to history of imprints from previous years, an actual imprint of things that went on there, or perhaps the current situation of some of the hotel residents could also be up for interpretation. We know that drugs, alcohol, certain medications can easily change the atmosphere for paranormal investigators considering ghostly interpretation. It is never our intent to interpret or make assessments. Clearly the anticipation and clarity of ghostly activity was interrupted by something, so we moved on.

Back on the bottom floor where the patrons were ‘hanging out’ the air “felt a little lighter, lively, and kind of fun.” Cooper added.

“On the third floor I felt an eerie presence in the back hallway” Renee Miller was to tell us later. We are a professional crew, not given to personal impressions, so this was substantial enough for us to go back up the stairs to investigate. “The presence was very heavy and it spooked me” she added. Photos on the site revealed ectoplasmic activity, and the meters were active.

However, in reference to this investigation, on a prior investigation with Reppert and King I personally found the majority of the extraordinary activity in the basement where the bootleg was distributed. It was unfortunate the area was off limits to us this day (Management said they were forced to change the locks for security reasons since some of the hired help have left their employ. They did assure us that we could go in again at another time.) These are my findings from the previous investigation.

“The basement was damp and musty. It is clear that there is a history of many years present. When alone the sound of laughter and screaming permeates the area, there is little stillness. There is the presence of several men carrying wooded boxes. There is clearly a party going on for some and hard work for others. There is food about. A small black and tan dog sits at the foot of one of the men, clearly a pet. The area is overcrowded with people, was extremely active. Our meters were off the charts. It will be fun to go back and analyze further.

After the soggy event at the Folsom Hotel, Carpenter was to forward some photos she

was able to substantiate as paranormal activity. “The most Orb pictures I took were at the ceiling level above the stairwell coming from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor. I took pictures when we first got there and midway through and got Orbs in both instances. I also shot an Orb in the hallway which I did not see with the naked eye. I also did get a couple of small Orbs on the 1st floor on to the left of the bar near the exit sign” She said.

“As far as feelings go, the second floor left me feeling uneasy. I did not really like being in the hallways at all. In the one room that I was able to get into did not bother me much, but I sensed there was someone watching, but I did not get anything on film in this room.” Knowing that there were muted energies, rain bringing out the best and perhaps the worse, we decided to come back at another time. Our energy was drained.

Sometimes the tenants in the Folsom Hotel hear knocks on their doors late at night. Could it be Zimmerman making certain all is tightened up for the night? On rainy nights and summer as well, sometimes an apparition can be seen lying on the floor at the front entrance of the Folsom Hotel. And then he fades away. We hope Levitz has found peace.

This show will air Wed. night May 27th at 8:00pm on Channel 17 in Sacramento

For more about the show and the author please go to:



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